Clean a Cupboard, Clear Your Mind

A brief meditative cleaning practice

Overwhelm can be a powerful downward force in our lives, I find myself often dragged under. When I am overwhelmed, I feel both frantic and frozen at the same time. I imagine it’s what a deer caught in headlights feels like. That feeling of sheer terror, but also an inability to move.

Overwhelm comes to me and as a result, I feel powerless. In these times I must take a small step towards feeling powerful again. To feel powerful doesn’t mean I have to summit a mountain or run a marathon. It doesn’t even mean that I have to accomplish everything on my to-do list. It’s just a reminder that I always have the power to shift the energy within me.

I am going to teach you a simple practice that will shift your energy from overwhelm to calm, from frantic to focused. All it takes is one messy cupboard.

Clutter in our homes creates clutter in the mind

We may not always notice how clutter causes us stress, but it does. A messy space can create a lot of excess noise in our minds. To take a step forward, we have to move to the side, around and under. We have to lift things and search for stuff. Rather than one fluid motion to wipe a clear counter, we have to clean around objects or move them.

Or maybe, we just feel too overwhelmed by the idea of it, and don’t it at all.

Take a look at your space. There is probably some small place, a bathroom cabinet, a junk drawer. Choose one small space in your life that you are going to clear. But choose a space that is not obvious, something quiet and out of the way. Something neglected.

You are going to set a timer. Just like in meditation, a timer is set to release your mind of the concern for time. I have found that setting timers for things when I am overwhelmed is a huge game-changer. Often when I think of one thing I need to do, I spiral out into the hundreds of other things and that feeling of stuckness sets in. Set a timer.

Today, I am going to organize my beauty products. I am going to pull everything out, throw away the stuff I don’t use or that is too old. I’m going to put similar products in temporary storage, and only have one thing out at a time. I am then going to arrange them pleasingly so that I know what I have and I can use it each day. I’m going to set a timer for 30 minutes.

How to make this a meditative practice.

  1. First of all, only do one thing. For this to be a mindfulness practice its important that you are focusing all of your attention on it. Don’t listen to a podcast or watch TV, don’t try to also fold laundry while you are cleaning out your drawer. Set a timer and make every effort to devote those 20 minutes, or however long to only this task.
  2. Second, take a few breaths before you begin and set an intention. Why are you cleaning out this drawer or cabinet? Sure it’s to reduce clutter or make your life a little easier but go deeper. This act will benefit your future self in some way. It’s an act of self-love. Put your hand on your heart and state your intention.
  3. Now, get to work. Notice each and every detail. Pay loving attention to each object. Notice judgments and negative thoughts as they arise. Stay focused on the task. As the wise Marie Kondo says, if you are ready to release an object, take a moment to thank it before you do.
  4. Finally, when the timer digs, check-in with yourself. Do you want to keep working? Are you in a state of flow? Or do you feel complete? Even if the task is not “done” (let’s be real here, cleaning is never actually done). How do YOU feel? If you think that you’d feel a state of accomplishment if you completed the task, you can set the timer again and continue working. Or you can simply be done. Think about your original intention, and decide for yourself if you fulfilled it.

Mindfulness and intention can permeate our lives if we choose. It can infuse our tasks with a sense of importance, and quiet ritual. This way of being is a soothing balm for our busy times. I hope that you try this practice and it brings you joy.

Psychologist and Human mood ring.

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